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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

It's about control

I have been reading a lot of Anna Valerious over at Narcissists Suck. I agree with a lot of what she has written, except that I can't really relate to her experiences with her own mother because that woman is so different form my own narcissistic mom. Her mother was outwardly, overtly cruel. She was sadistic and not afraid to admit that to herself. Mother Valerious was out to hurt people. She got a thrill out of it.

My Mom, OTOH, is just the opposite. She is not, I think, out to really hurt any one per se. She really does not care one way or the other. Having no apparent genuine feelings or inner life, she is utterly unable to comprehend that other people do have feelings. Even if she did get that, she would not care. The only thing she wants, as far as I can tell, is to control people, to make them do what she wants. It doesn't seem to really matter what the outcome is half the time; she just wants to make people do stuff. Maybe she wants everybody to do her bidding so she can feel special, or maybe she is trying to establish her "specialness" in order to get her way. It's probably a chicken-and-egg thing by now.

This is how it works: Mom wants something. And, it never seems like what she says she wants is that big a deal, until you look at it carefully. For example, she says she wants to take Ted and me out to lunch. That seems nice. It seems altruistic. It would not take a rocket scientist to figure out that it is a way to get us to pay attention to her. But then, you have to start thinking of the hidden costs of this lunch. Say she wants to go out to lunch after church. This will involve a pokey-slow restaurant with a big crowd. It will take up most of the afternoon. Then there will be an invitation to come to her house, which will be hard to refuse since she did spring for lunch. There go a couple more hours. When it's time to leave, she will stonewall us with "one more thing," and then "one more thing" so that from the time I tell Kiddo to put his shoes on, to the time we leave, can be anything from an hour to two hours, depending. As soon as it's time to go, Mom starts guilt tripping us, talking about how afraid she is of her imaginary prowlers. Then she wants Ted to change some light bulbs, check the basement for prowlers (prowlers are the new boogie-man), and so on. Once we get out of the house, it takes more than an hour for us to drive home. Ted gets up early for work, and has to be in bed by 9 pm at the latest. So that is our entire Sunday, shot to hell.

Or, since we are on the subject of lunch, let's say I need her to watch my son for an afternoon while I work. I don't do this too often, since it is an hour or more out of the way, no matter where I work. In order to be dressed and on the floor at 4 pm, I need to leave her house by 2:30 AT THE LATEST. If I want to get to Mom's house by, say, 1 pm, I have to leave my home by 11: 30. All the lessons for the day have to be done, because Mom will not so much as help Kiddo finish a work sheet. I could take him to a sitter in my neighborhood for those couple of hours until Ted gets home, and it would only cost me $10, less than the extra gas I burn taking him to Mom's. So this is a lot of extra driving and pre-planning for me, which I was actually happy to do, so that Kiddo could have his Friday afternoons with Grandma.

Now, I am always dieting. I have no need or desire to eat in a restaurant more than once every couple of weeks. I would be totally happy to visit with Mom at her house for an hour and a half, drop off my kid, and split. I would be back to pick him up by 10 pm or so, and we could have coffee and visit for another hour then. Since I see my mom frequently (or at least I used to) I think this is fine. But we can't just have a light lunch at home and call it good. We have to go out to eat. Once again to a pokey-slow restaurant that has nothing fit for a dieter. Then it's a rush to eat our food and race back to the house to drop off Mom and Kiddo, so I can then break a land-speed record getting to work. This got to be such a problem that I was consistently late for a good Friday show, and consequently lost that account. (I am an independent traveling dancer, which means I get my own accounts and then am responsible for showing up to them on time.)

No matter what the activity is, Mom tries to structure the whole day so that it revolves around her, and I am actually unable to leave. She uses a whole arsenal of sneaky weapons. First she employs the the guilt-trip. ("Do you really have to go so soon? I hardly ever see you!") Then she plays the fear card, often in conjunction with the guilt trip. ("I hope I don't have any prowlers tonight. Oh, I'm just so sacred!") And then it's the helpless act. ("Can you please change the lightbulbs/sweep the walk/take these things downstairs/etc.? I can't do it by myself.") Sometimes she carries the helpless bit even farther by refusing to drive to meet us anywhere, like she did for Kiddo's talent show. Then of course it takes even more time from me, having to chauffeur her around. Before you know it, a couple of hours or more have slipped away. Sometimes she will pretend to be concerned for me. ("Oh, it's so late. Why don't you just spend the night here?") Then she has the nerve to pretend she is worried about my driving so late, when I could have left hours ago.

I don't get what exactly my Mom is trying to accomplish with this behavior. The obvious effect is, when I spend time with her, I have little control over my own time (can't leave when I plan to), my eating (a continuing battle between her and me), my work life, and my money (because I lose money when I am late for work). Frequently, the time I spend with her is time I could have spent with my husband, who I really don't see enough of. So, whatever she is attempting to do, the result is she has alienated me. (Oh, yeah, let's add to that, since she so adamantly disapproves of homeschooling, and of my working in a bar, I have almost nothing to say to her that won't quickly devolve into icy silence.)

The really sad thing her is, I would spend more time with her if I could do so without all the drama and manipulations. If I could drop off kiddo on Friday and know that he would get his work done, I would get to work on time, and we could have a pleasant visit, I would so do it. If I could have a relaxed Sunday luncheon with her and then go on with my day, I would do that. I used to invite her to my home all the time, but she won't come. (She does, however, spend up to two weeks with my foster brother and his family in Ohio, when she can sucker somebody into driving her.)

I keep wishing there was some way to remedy this. Every time I try to establish a boundary, it creates a problem. She called me today to tell me Kiddo was upset that she didn't watch the Super Bowl with us at Ted's Dad's house. The truth is, we didn't invite her because we didn't want to drive her home after the game. It would have added an extra hour to our drive. If she would just drive herself, she would be welcome to come. I think from now on, I will tell her "You are welcome to come, but you will have to drive yourself. We can't do it." She still won't drive herself, and therefore won't come, but at least the invitation is out there.

I'm feeling sad today because I wish things could be different. Although I know this is not my fault, I still regret that I can't make things right. I keep thinking I could do something to make things go more smoothly between us. The only thing I can think of is to continue setting boundaries so that we can have at least the framework of a normal relationship. *Sigh*

For now, I have given her enough control over my mind, by letting this problem prey on me for the last two days. I'm done for now. If anybody has any helpful advice, I'm glad to hear it. Peace, out.

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